In response to the strange and fatal accident on Highway 101 earlier this week, LoCO commenter “AG” asks, essentially: Isn’t it true that the the Eureka-Arcata Safety Corridor no longer exists?

As with many rumors, this contains just a tiny little kernel of truth. As a public service, your Lost Coast Outpost has ferreted out this kernel.

To unravel the mystery, it will help to rhetorically distinguish between “safety corridors” and “double-fine zones.” It is these two things together that make up what we generally think of as the Eureka-Arcata Safety Corridor, and the confusion of the two leads to misunderstandings like those experienced by “AG”’s wife’s traffic instructor.

In the beginning, way back in the mid-‘90s, our little stretch of road was both. You had to drive with your lights on, the speed limit was 50 miles per hour, and if you got popped for any traffic violations in the zone then your fines were doubled.

However, the legislation that instituted the “double-fine zone” portion of all this – for legislation was required for the designation – was written with a sunset clause. The double-fine zone had to be renewed by the state legislature every so often or it would expire.

In the 2005-2006 session of the legislature, a bill was put forth that would do exactly that. Assm. Patty Berg and Sen. Wes Chesbro were amonth the co-authors of Assembly Bill 1384, which, among other things, intended to extend the Eureka-Arcata Double-Fine Zone until 2010. It passed the Senate on a vote of 23-14 and the Assembly 56-20.

Then Gov. Schwarzenegger stepped in and vetoed the thing, on the grounds that by itself it was ineffective. Furthermore, he wrote, the legislature should make some sort of blanket rules so that Caltrans could designate double-fine zones on its own. That way the legislature would not have to individually consider and approve every single zone in the state.

The legislature briefly considered going for a veto override, but then scrapped that plan.

So the Eureka-Arcata double-fine zone is no more. If you get popped for a speeding ticket there, you pay what you’d pay anywhere else. That part of what we think of as the “safety corridor” is no more, and hasn’t been law for some time.

However: The “safety corridor” proper (see above) is still in effect. The speed limit on that stretch of road is still 50 miles per hour, and you still have to turn your headlights on. That’s because although the legislature never gave double-fine zone authority over to Caltrans, the agency still does have broad power to set speed limits and other safety measures on state roads such as Highway 101.

On Wednesday Supervisor Mark Lovelace told the Lost Coast Outpost that yet another piece of the corridor has gone missing, though. Used to be that the California Highway Patrol received special grant funds to beef up patrols on the corridor. That, like much grant funding in the state of California, has gone by the wayside.